Why Can’t You Delete a Swatch in InDesign?

Adobe InDesign is a favored program for many graphic designers. It works well with various jobs, including those that require a lot of text, vector art, and images. When using InDesign it is possible to create a professional polished piece that will be satisfactory to both you and your employer. However, no program is perfect, and InDesign is no different. One of the most common problems is being unable to delete a swatch. Why does this happen?

Typically, when a color swatch cannot be deleted it means that the spot color has already been used in a graphic such as PDF, EPS, or PSD which means that it cannot be changed. However, it may also occur because of corruption in the document itself.

Though this is very frustrating, especially after you have put in a lot of work on a project, it may be possible to fix the issue or cover it up enough that you cannot tell the swatch is even there. Below we will discuss some actions you can take to fix this problem. Read on to find out what they are and what you can do.

What Can I Do if My Swatch Will Not Delete?

If you find yourself in a situation where you have put in a bunch of work but that pesky color swatch is ruining the whole look, there may be a few things you can do to fix it. Let’s explore each of these more in detail.

How Do I Fix a Color Swatch in PDF, EPS, or PSD Graphic?

You have two options if you have figured out that the color swatch has been imported into a graphic.

The first option is to delete the entire graphic from InDesign. If you have access to the original image, put it into a program that can perform conversion and edits. Once you are there, convert the image to CMYK. After you have converted the image, if it looks the way you intended, then add it back into InDesign.

Another option is to click in the top right corner of InDesign on the option labeled “Swatches Panel.” In the swatches panel, click on the “Ink Manager” button and choose the option labeled “Convert all spots to CMYK.” These two options should fix or cover the issue. If they do not, then that means there is corruption in the document, and you can try the following to fix the problem.

How Do I Fix a Color Swatch that is Due to a Document Corruption?

If the above two options do not fix or convert the color swatch, then you can try the two following options that will enable you to keep your work and not have to start completely from the beginning. Let’s take a look at them step by step.

1. Synchronize a Book

The first option you can try is “Synchronize a Book.” This involves adding both the corrupted file and a new one to a book panel by taking the following steps:

  • First, create a new document. In this document put the color swatch that you are trying to delete from your other document, making sure that it is the same and has the same name.
  • Next, create a book panel. To this click “File”, then select “New” from the drop-down menu and “Book” from that menu.
  • Disable automatic pagination. After you have created the book panel, a flyout menu should open. Once that menu has opened choose the option that says either “Page Numbering” or “Automatically Update Page and Section Numbers.” Once you have clicked on that, add the original corrupted file and the new one.
  • Make the new file the master document. You should be able to do this by clicking on the left column in the book panel.
  • Go back to the flyout menu and click “Synchronize Options”. Once you have selected it, make sure that everything but “Swatches” is turned off to ensure that nothing else is changed unnecessarily, then click “Synchronize.”

If this has worked, then you should now be able to delete the faulty swatch and carry on with your project.

2. Create an InDesign Interchange or Do a Deep IDML Clean

If you tried “Synchronize a book” and it did not work, then another thing you can do is do an interchange. This is a simple process where you click on File, then click on Export then choose IDML file. Once it has been turned into an IDML file, reopen the file in InDesign, and it should now work.

If, however, it does not, there is one last thing you can do-a deep IDML clean. This should be used as a last resort and done very carefully while making sure you save and back up your work as you go.

  • First, export the file as an IDML file.
  • Once you have done that, open up the file in a text editor such as Notepad or Text Wrangler.
  • Look for the specific color you are trying to delete. All of the colors will be embedded in the text under <colr.
  • Remove that entire section, then look for it again in the text editor. It should now be located under <cink.
  • Once you have located it, remove it. This should remove the offending color and you can carry on with the rest of your project.


InDesign is a great and useful tool to make a variety of projects look as polished and professional as possible. One issue that many people have discovered is that sometimes they are unable to delete a swatch. This usually happens either because the image the swatch is in was made in a graphic such as a PDF or because there is a small corruption in the document.

If the problem is with the graphic, it can usually be fixed by converting all colors to CMYK. If the problem is corruption with a document, you can either create an InDesign Interchange or do a deep IDML clean. So, no matter the reason there are a variety of ways to potentially fix the issue and be completely satisfied with your work.